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Braves' Franco homers twice, makes Reds feel old

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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CINCINNATI -- Julio Franco couldn't remember the last time he hit two homers in a game. He needed some details to fill in the memory blanks.

The year was 1996. He was playing for Cleveland. The opponent was the California Angels -- yes, they belonged to the entire state back then, not just two cities.

"It's too far (back) for me," said Franco, who homered twice Saturday in Atlanta's 6-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. "Tell me what happened yesterday."

At age 46, his memory is a little worn. On some days, though, the legs and the swing are as fresh as a rookie's.

The age-defying first baseman hit a solo homer and a two-run shot Saturday off Eric Milton (3-9), starting another outburst by the Braves. Andruw Jones took the NL lead with his 19th homer, his seventh in the last eight days.

Johnny Estrada then sealed it with a two-run shot in the eighth off Kent Mercker, Atlanta's ninth homer in the last two games. But it was Franco's throwback performance that made everyone marvel.

"When you're with him every day, you think it's never going to end," manager Bobby Cox said. "Sometimes I'm amazed that he can do what he's doing at that age."

It was amazing that he stayed on the field long enough to hit two. Franco had a virus when the Braves arrived in town, and his temperature spiked again on Friday, leaving him tired and weak.

"I'm losing weight," Franco said. "I can't eat well. I can't sleep well."

It sure didn't show.

"After the first home run, or maybe it was the second, I was thinking that he's kind of like a position player you could compare to Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson," said Reds manager Dave Miley, who is three years younger than Franco. "I don't know if remarkable's the right word, but he's impressive."

The Braves have done an impressive about-face in Cincinnati, winning the first three games with three starting pitchers on the disabled list. Atlanta hadn't won three in a row since a sweep of the Mets from May 23-25.

For the Reds, it was another gloomy night in front of their first sellout crowd since opening day. Cincinnati has lost six in a row, falling a season-worst 16 games under .500. Since their chief executive delivered a win-or-else ultimatum, the Reds have gone 5-8.

Reliever Adam Bernero (4-1) blanked the Reds for 1 2/3 innings, getting the victory as the Braves' cobbled staff repeatedly dodged trouble. Cincinnati stranded 13 runners, nine in scoring position.

Reliever Jorge Sosa made his second start of the season -- this one on only three days of rest -- and limited the Reds to Sean Casey's RBI single in 4 1/3 innings. Sosa is filling in while the Braves wait for John Thomson, Mike Hampton and Tim Hudson to recover from injuries.

Milton was supposed to be the cornerstone of a revamped Reds rotation, signing on for three years at $25.5 million last December. Instead, the left-hander leads the league in losses, hits, runs and homers allowed with 25. Last year, he gave up 43 homers, most in the NL.

"I made some mistakes," Milton said. "The outcomes haven't been good, but I try to take some positives out of them. It's tough. It's been a struggle and it continues."

Franco got the Braves rolling with a two-out solo shot in the first. His two-run homer made it 3-0 in the third and gave him his first multihomer game since Sept. 12, 1996, for Cleveland.

Since then, his hardscrabble career has taken him to Milwaukee, Japan, Mexico, Tampa Bay, Korea, Mexico again, and finally Atlanta, where he's showing he's still got something left in that well-traveled body.

During the series opener, Franco stole a pair of bases for the first time since 1994. Franco, who turns 47 on Aug. 23, is the oldest major-leaguer to steal a base.

He's the second-oldest to homer. Jack Quinn was a week shy of his 47th birthday when he homered for the Philadelphia Athletics on June 27, 1930.

Jones, who had two homers in Friday's 10-5 win, made it 4-1 with his 418-foot drive to center in the fifth inning. He's 8-for-21 career off Milton with four homers.

Notes

  • Franco has five multihomer games in his career.
  • Sosa also had his first career hit, a single.
  • The Reds had a business promotion and a cap giveaway, accounting for the crowd of 41,737.
  • Milton has given up at least one homer in 13 of his 15 starts. He's 1-8 since April 21 with an 8.58 ERA.
  • The Reds have given up 103 homers, most in the majors.
  • Reds C Jason LaRue left in the eighth after twisting his right knee while rounding first base on a single.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Julio Franco, who turns 47 in August, turns in his first multihomer game since Sept. 12, 1996.  (AP)
Julio Franco, who turns 47 in August, turns in his first multihomer game since Sept. 12, 1996. (AP)

Players of the Game
Atlanta

J. Franco
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 2
RBI 3
Atlanta

J. Estrada
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
 

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Atlanta Braves
Rafael Furcal, SS5000004 .222
Marcus Giles, 2B5120003 .283
Julio Franco, 1B4223001 .269
   a- Adam LaRoche, PH-1B1000000 .249
Andruw Jones, CF4121001 .259
Andy Marte, 3B4010001 .188
Brian Jordan, RF3100001 .229
Johnny Estrada, C4122001 .286
Kelly Johnson, LF3010121 .180
Jorge Sosa, P2010010 .500
    Adam Bernero, P00000001.000
    John Foster, P0000000 .000
    Blaine Boyer, P0000000 .000
   b- Wilson Betemit, PH1000000 .325
    Jim Brower, P0000000 .000
    Chris Reitsma, P0000000 .000
Totals3661161313 
a-grounded out for Franco in the 9th
b-grounded out for Boyer in the 8th
Batting
2B - Andy Marte (2, Milton), Johnny Estrada (18, Milton)
HR - Julio Franco 2 (5, Milton, Milton), Andruw Jones (19, Milton), Johnny Estrada (3, Mercker)
SH - Adam Bernero (1)
RBI - Julio Franco 3 (15), Andruw Jones (42), Johnny Estrada 2 (29)
2-OUT RBI - Julio Franco 3 (8)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Giles-Furcal-Franco
Atlanta Braves
Jorge Sosa 4.1411350 2.70
Adam Bernero (W,4-1) 1.2300010 4.89
John Foster (H,6) 0.2000220 1.98
Blaine Boyer (H,1) 0.1000000 2.08
Jim Brower 1200010 6.12
Chris Reitsma 1100020 3.00
WP - Jorge Sosa (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Jorge Sosa 69-51, Adam Bernero 32-21, John Foster 23-12, Blaine Boyer 2-2, Jim Brower 14-12, Chris Reitsma 13-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jorge Sosa 2-6, Adam Bernero 3-0, Jim Brower 1-1, Chris Reitsma 1-0
Batters Faced - Jorge Sosa 20, Adam Bernero 7, John Foster 4, Blaine Boyer 1, Jim Brower 5, Chris Reitsma 4
Cincinnati Reds
Ryan Freel, 2B4110124 .287
Felipe Lopez, SS4000122 .298
Sean Casey, 1B4031100 .321
Ken Griffey Jr., CF5010025 .274
Joe Randa, 3B5010015 .288
Adam Dunn, LF4000021 .243
Wily Mo Pena, RF3000111 .264
Jason LaRue, C3030100 .247
    Kenny Kelly, PR0000000 .400
    Todd Coffey, P0000000 .000
Eric Milton, P1000012 .208
   a- Jacob Cruz, PH1000002 .276
    Ryan Wagner, P0000000 .000
    Kent Mercker, P0000000 .000
   b- Javier Valentin, PH-C1010000 .230
Totals35110151122 
a-grounded out for Milton in the 6th
b-singled for Mercker in the 8th
Batting
2B - Sean Casey (17, Sosa), Ken Griffey Jr. (18, Reitsma), Joe Randa (16, Bernero), Jason LaRue (7, Sosa)
SH - Eric Milton (4)
RBI - Sean Casey (31)
SB - Ryan Freel 3 (21, 2nd base off Sosa/Estrada, 2nd base off Foster/Estrada, 3rd base off Foster/Estrada), Wily Mo Pena (1, 2nd base off Sosa/Estrada)
Team LOB - 13
Fielding
DP - F. Lopez-Freel-Casey
Cincinnati Reds
Eric Milton (L,3-9) 6944123 7.82
Ryan Wagner 1.1111000 5.40
Kent Mercker 0.2111011 3.10
Todd Coffey 1000000 4.82
HBP - Jordan (by Ryan Wagner)
Pitches-Strikes - Eric Milton 99-68, Ryan Wagner 19-12, Kent Mercker 11-7, Todd Coffey 16-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Eric Milton 4-12, Ryan Wagner 3-0, Kent Mercker 1-0, Todd Coffey 3-0
Batters Faced - Eric Milton 28, Ryan Wagner 5, Kent Mercker 3, Todd Coffey 3
Game Information
Attendance - 41737
Game Time - 2:59
Temperature - 73
Umpires - Home - Bruce Froemming, First Base - Hunter Wendelstedt, Second Base - Jerry Meals, Third Base - Mike Winters